In a recent series of events, the representatives of Valve have sent adult game developers notices stating they will need to change the content of their games or be removed.
The story first unfolded with HuniePot, the developer of Match-3 and dating simulator HuniePop, receiving a message from Valve that HuniePop"violates the rules & guidelines for pornographic content on Steam."Tweet
The developer then stated they will be doing their best to resolve the issue with Valve directly and will inform their audience about it as soon as possible. He also followed up that he's certain that the game will not be removed from the libraries of users who have bought the game.
The next developer affected by the same issues and has received a similar message to HuniePot is Lupiesoft regarding their Steam release of monster girl visual novel Mutiny!!Tweet
The developer then added they do not plan on modifying their game's content according to unclear rules regarding sexual content that Steam has readily been changing without notifying any of their developer partners.
Lastly, the official NEKO WORKs Twitter account has tweeted on behalf of Tentacle Games that Tropical Liquor, a puzzle game/dating simulator has found itself in a similar situation will also be removed from Steam's storefront if changes to its sexual content have not been made.
While the exact reason why these games that have been on Steam for many months and even years without any issues are just now being hit with violation notices is unknown, there is one singular element that ties them all together that may be provide a clue to the overarching problem.
All three games: HuniePop, Mutiny!! and Tropical Liquor feature uncensored artwork of breasts with visible nipples in sexual situations in their Steam versions. This may be in fact the reason why these games got targeted in the first place; however, without Valve's direct comment on that matter, it all remains in the realm of speculation. Valve has been tight-lipped about addressing any issues regarding nudity and sexual content in the games they feature on the Steam storefront and have never made guidelines regarding those issues public or transparent enough for any prospective developers that want to use their services. We have contacted Valve in the past asking for comments surrounding multiple problems related to this topic, but have never heard back. Despite this, we will be sure to reach out to them again for clarifications.
The newly arisen issue opens up many other games on Steam to the same potential problem. Without any clear official guidelines and regulations as well as the policies seemingly changing on Valve's whim, it will be increasingly hard for any adult developers to put their games up on Steam in a manner that is in accordance with these nebulous rules.
We will be sure to update this story once more information becomes available.
[UPDATE 05/20/18] HuniePot, Lupiesoft, and MangaGamer have received e-mails back from Valve telling them to disregard the previous violation notices and the two-week deadline for removal. All three games will be re-reviewed by Valve in the near future.Tweet
It is currently too early to say if other developers affected by this issue will get the same treatment.
[UPDATE 05/19/18] A Valve representative going by the nickname HenryG has stated on the /r/Steam subreddit that new rules for pornographic content are similar to those related to the "Hot Coffee" scandal from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
Although I cannot refer to any specific decision or any particular title, I can say for certain that - much like the GTA “hot coffee” scandal - if the hardcore content is actually delivered over Steam as part of the game data and just “unlocked” by the patch file, that would be a pretty big violation of the Steam distribution agreement.
At a similar time, a post has been made on the developer Winged Cloud's Patreon page stating their games, which had uncensor patches, got flagged by Valve and will need to be readjusted. The changes to content will also be included in their latest title Sakura Sadist, which was supposed to be another game featuring a patch. As for the patches already available for some of their titles, they will be temporarily taken down.
Hello everybody~Maybe you've heard about the news, that quite a lot of visual novels on Steam need to be rebuild or 'adjusted' more. If you haven't heard about it yet, click here to see an article about this topic.
With that said, we also received a mail that we have to adjust a few of our games, which are the ones that have a patch.Since we prepared a patch for Sadist already but don't want to cause any trouble with it, we want to take care of the changes first, which also affects Sakura Sadist, and then release the game.
So Sakura Sadist will be delayed by a week, to give us some time to sort things out. I hope that we don't disappoint you guys and that we can come up with a good solution :)
We've also taken down the download links to the patches for now but we'll keep you up to date if anything changes.
I hope you all have a nice weekend~
[UPDATE5 05/18/18] Top Hat Studios' Karmasutra has been flagged by Valve. The developer plans to work with Valve's representative in order to keep their game up on Steam.
[UPDATE4 05/18/18] Roommates by WinterWolves Games has also been flagged by Valve and given a two-week period to remove the offending content from their game. The developers plan to remove a nudity add-on that was implemented about a year ago.
[UPDATE3 05/18/18] Sekai Projects official Twitter account has made a statement their Steam version of Re;Lord 1 has also been flagged. Sekai Project intends to talk with Valve about the issue but also introduce necessary changes for the game to stay on the storefront.
[UPDATE2 05/18/18] The Twitter account of erotic visual novel developer Dharker Studio has stated two of their Steam games Battle Girls and Galaxy Girls have been flagged for violating Steam's terms of service regarding adult content.
[UPDATE1 05/18/18] Western eroge publisher MangaGamer has also been targetted by Valve with a violation notice regarding Kindred Spirits on the Roof. The publisher has issued a lengthy and thorough press release explaining the situation from their perspective as well as an official stance going forward. You can read the full text of the press release below.
It is with deep regret that today MangaGamer is forced to announce that they have received notice from Valve threatening to remove the popular title, Kindred Spirits on the Roof, from the Steam platform. This game has been largely celebrated in the LGBT community for genuine depictions of romantic relations between lesbian and sold on the Steam storefront without issue for over two years now. MangaGamer has cited to press that Valve's reason for threatening the delisting of this title is:
"We've discovered pornographic depictions in your product: Kindred Spirits on the Roof. This is a violation of our rules and guidelines for content that can be distributed on the Steam platform. We won’t be able the product on Steam as long as it includes pornographic depictions."
As many may remember, Kindred Spirits on the Roof received major attention as it signaled a positive shift in the gaming industry and the dawn of era where games with tasteful, mature romantic content could be found on the Steam platform alongside the excessive violence featured in many popular titles. This threat of removal represents a huge leap backward in the progress made for expressing sexuality in video games.
In MangaGamer's official statement on their blog, they note:
"We went to great pains to run the game's content by Valve representatives––including sending along every potentially questionable graphical asset along with advanced builds of the title––to ensure that that feeling was mutual. The game would have never appeared on the platform if we had not confirmed with Valve representatives that they did not feel the content was pornographic and was appropriate for the platform."
MangaGamer and Kindred Spirits are not the only developers being targeted by this new string of removal threats. English Developers Huniepot (Huniepop), Lupiesoft (Mutiny!), and more have publicly confirmed that they have received take-down threats for similar reasons.
When approached for further comment, MangaGamer's Press Director, John Pickett, had this to add:
"This is terrible news for everyone in the visual novel industry and the gaming industry as . We followed every guideline provided to us by Valve to the letter, so there is no reason for this title to be cut off when it has to the standards provided. The sexual content present in Kindred Spirits is no worse what can readily be found in titles like The Witcher series, yet those remain unaffected. When we launched Gahkthun of the Golden Lightning on Steam, we took it through the ESRB rating system because it featured content that was slightly more explicit than that of Kindred Spirits, and that passed review with a Mature rating, not AO.
It is dangerous for every small, indie development team when a major entity can just cut off the revenue streams they rely on like this, even after they have followed all proper procedures and conformed to the standards and guidelines provided by the retailer. Especially when no clear guidance or notice is provided when new standards are being implemented.
If this is more than just a major short-sighted error on Valve's end, it could be disastrous for visual novels and the advancements in expression within gaming made in recent years."
MangaGamer goes further in their post regarding this notice, hinting at the development of a new website and new store platform.
Steam may be closing its doors to visual novels, but it looks like MangaGamer may be stepping up soon to fill in the gap. They close with a call-out to all developers affected by these new events, welcoming those affected to their own retail platform. Developers interested in retailing their titles uncensored without fear of future take-downs can contact MangaGamer at firstname.lastname@example.org
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